Exam Result Rankings Commercialised

The Principal Secretary for Education, Dr. Belio Kipsang has asked stakeholders in Education to review the ranking of students and schools during announcement of national examinations.

He said the ranking of schools and even students in order of merit in national examinations exerted enormous pressures on schools and students, thereby tempting teachers to focus on passing examinations of students, instead of providing holistic education that the Government wants children to have.

The suggestion has been well received going by responses the PS remarks have elicited in the mainstream media and the social media.

In calling for a review of the administration of examinations, the Principal Secretary did not suggest the abolition of the National Examinations that students undertake at the end of the primary and secondary education cycle.

He was calling for several things chief among them, the withdrawal of the statistical information about the best students and the best schools.

This ranking has always formed the substance of the announcement of national examinations results, and which schools have, by default, commercialized to advertise their schools.

The unwritten rule in administration of national examinations is that: “if your school does not appear in the newspapers, and preferably at the top of the pack, you are not good enough.”

And appearance in the national media appears to give the schools and the teachers some mileage which has little to do with the goals and objectives of education as we know it.

The logical consequence of this has been that some unscrupulous school administrations prefer what experts in educational assessment called item-teaching to curriculum teaching.

In item-teaching, teachers are said to organize their instruction either around the actual items found on a test or around a set of look-alike items.

On the other hand, Curriculum-teaching, however, requires teachers to direct their instruction toward a specific body of content knowledge or a specific set of cognitive skills represented by a given test according to W. James Popham, professor emeritus at University of California Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and a recognized expert on educational assessment.

Item teaching does not provide expose the students to impart the depth and breadth of knowledge, and skills learners need to develop the analytical, creative and problem solving skills that they need to tackle examinations.

It is these skills— applicable across all disciplines—that define quality education and which in turn transform learners into effective citizens, and prospective employers and entrepreneurs. Stakeholders have claimed that our examination system is examination oriented.

If it examination oriented, it so by default, by the serious dereliction of duty on the part of School administrations and teachers.

The prescribed curriculum the Ministry of Education has designed, in conjunction with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) is relatively speaking rich in intellectual rigour.

It also provides for the development of the emotional and behavioral domains of the learners as well as their psychomotor skills.

The policy documents that guide curriculum development is clear about the educational outcomes of learners at the end of every education cycle.

The policy guidelines have spelled out the specific skills, and competencies which the curriculum should be able to develop/impart in the learners.

The Experts designed the curriculum with scope and sequences that provides for effective teaching and learning. They also provided for balanced assessment of learning experiences of the prescribed curriculum.

The National obsession with examinations has been abetted more by the warped values of the generation middle class that don’t care about integrity, and other values that defined this country in 1970s and the bête part of 1980s.

The values appear to have seized the teaching community in many schools. The structure of school programmes many of the schools have adopted unduly focus on examinations.

The internal examinations that were purely for formative reasons, as a tool to test the effectiveness of teaching and learning going on in schools have lost that purpose. They have become an end and not a means of testing for understanding.

Some schools have developed new jargon that never guided traditional educationists. We have today something called the language of the curriculum and the language of the examinations.

Mastering the curriculum, to them is immaterial. What matters is mastering skills and strategies and tactics that enables students to pass examinations even if they have not mastered the curriculum content which, at the end, helps students to nurture or forge the repertoire of skills and competences required by all learners and teachers—skills that define quality and relevant education anywhere in the world.

It is this thinking that powered the remarks Dr. Kipsang made to the effect that the stakeholders re-think the ranking of the students and schools during announcement of examinations as it is serving other purposes other than educational purposes.

He also particularly called for integrity in the administration of the examination—setting, sitting, invigilating, marking and releasing of examinations—as away addressing some of the unintended consequences of managing national education issues.

The Principal Secretary did not call for the scrapping of summative examinations. Formative examinations cannot address the challenges that are associated with managing National examinations.

Stakeholders in education must be clear minded when addressing some of the challenges the nation faces in education.

The hiccups we face in curriculum management and delivery and in the administration of national examinations cannot take this country to the next level of national development.

We should apply intelligence, skill, knowledge and integrity in tackling this and other national problems. We owe this to our children and the next generation.


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